THE LORD'S SUPPER

A Study By
Gary Ray Branscome
Lesson 18


    Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread and when He had given thanks, He brake it and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take eat this is My body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.”

    After the same manner, He took the cup when He had supped, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying, “Drink ye all of it; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which was shed for you for the remission of sins. This do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

    With those words, Christ instituted “The Lord's Supper” as a perpetual observance of the Christian Church. And, we can expect to see it observed wherever Christians gather for worship. At the same time, His reason for instituting that ceremony, and the purpose that He intended for it to serve, is not deep and mysterious. On the contrary, it is simply a constant reminder of the fact that we only have forgiveness because He took our sins upon Himself and died in our place. [Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, 1Corinthians 11:23-26, Luke 22:19-20.]

    In order to clarify what I mean, let us begin by looking at the words, “In remembrance of Me” (1Corinthians 11:24,25). When Christ speaks of “remembrance,” He is not talking about a shallow, superficial remembrance. He does not want people to only say, “Oh yes I remember. Poor chap was sentenced to death even though He was perfectly innocent. What an awful shame.” If that was all anybody remembered as they partook of the Lord's supper, it would be utterly worthless. Far from such superficial remembrance, Christ wants us to remember what He plainly said, namely that His body was “given for you” and that His blood was “shed for you for the remission of sins”. In other words, what Christ wants us to remember is the gospel message, the good news that He died on the cross and shed His blood so that we might have forgiveness and eternal life. And, Christ certainly does not want us to remember that fact without believing it! He wants us to remember and BELIEVE that His body was “given for us” and that His blood was “shed” for our forgiveness. [Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:19-20, 1Corinthians 11:24.]

    Once that is understood, it becomes obvious that Christ intended for His supper to serve as a ceremonial proclamation of the gospel. In other words, whenever that ceremony is preformed according to Christ's instruction, it reminds people that He died so that they could have forgiveness and eternal life. And, because that message is the Word of God, we know that it will accomplish the purpose that He intended for it to accomplish.

    In keeping with the role that Christ intended for His supper to serve, He instituted it at the time of Passover in order to make it clear that He is the true Passover sacrifice (1Corinthians 5:7). In fact, the deliverance of God’s people from physical bondage at the time of the first Passover, was intended to point forward to the deliverance of His people from spiritual bondage through the death of Christ (John 1:29). However, unlike the Passover, Christ’s Supper gives every one of us His own promise, that His body was given and His blood shed, for us, for the remission of sins (Galatians 3:22).

    Because of that promise it is important not to contradict what Christ said when He instituted His Supper, for those who contradict the Word of God make it of none effect (Mark 7:13). Since Christ plainly said that the bread was His “body,” and that the cup was His “blood” that is what He wants us to believe and teach (1Corinthians 11:26-28). However, the fact that He was physically present with His disciples when He made that statement tells us that His words have a deeper meaning, and that meaning should become clearer as we go.

    First of all, the words “as often as ye eat this bread,” tell us that what we eat when we partake of the Lord’s Supper is “bread,” not flesh (1Corinthians 11:26-28). Therefore, when Christ instituted the Lord's Supper, He never intended for us to conclude that we were eating physical flesh. However, instead of contradicting Christ we need to understand that there is another sense in which we can receive Christ’s body and blood, namely by receiving it as the atonement for our sins.

    In order to understand that sense, we need to examine Christ’s discourse at Capernaum (John 6:24,35-63). However, in reading that discourse it is important to understand that He was not speaking of the Lord’s Supper, for it had not even been instituted at that time (John 6:24,35-63). Moreover the grammar is entirely different. In that discourse He referred to His body as “bread” (which is a metaphor), yet in the Lord's Supper He calls bread His “Body” (which is the opposite of a metaphor). In fact, calling bread His “body,” is the equivalent of saying, “that door is me” instead of saying “I am the door.” Since there is no such figure of speech, such a statement must either be true, or it is absurd. Nevertheless, even though the words that Christ spoke at Capernaum were not about His Supper, those words do cast light on what He later said about His Supper, because they equate faith in His sacrifice with eating His body and blood (compare John 6:40 and 6:54). In other words, all who trust in Him, in effect, receive His body and shed blood (His sacrifice) in the sense that they receive it as the atonement for their sins. In that way, just as God's gift of manna kept the children of Israel alive in the wilderness, the gift of Christ's body and blood keeps us alive spiritually.

[Note: Since the ancient Rabbis claimed that the Messiah would provide both water and manna, just as Moses had done, the book of John shows Christ to be both the source of living water and heavenly manna. (See Edersheim, volume 1, page 176. John 4:10-14, John 6:35-63)]

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS


    Since the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to present each believer with Christ’s unspeakable gift, those who do not believe that His body and blood were “given” and “shed” for them, are unworthy to partake (1Corinthians 11:29). In other words, because God sees no fault in those who trust in Christ, the only people who could be unworthy are those who are unrepentant. However, we need to remember that those who trust in their own righteousness are just as unrepentant as those who sin willfully, and are more likely to assume that they are worthy (Luke 18:9-14). In their blindness, they usually see little need for forgiveness and, for that reason, fail to recognize Christ's sacrifice as the source of their salvation (1Corinthians 11:29). Worse yet, because Christ’s body and blood were presented to them as the atonement for their sin, and they rejected God’s forgiveness by their unbelief, the guilt and condemnation that Christ bore on the cross comes back upon them (1Corinthians 11:27, Matthew 23:35, Luke 11:50). Bearing that guilt, they are then chastened by God in the hope that they might humble their heart, recognize their sin, and look to Christ for forgiveness (1Corinthians 11:29-32).

CONCLUSION


    When Christ instituted His Supper He never intended for people to be pointed to the ceremony itself, as if forgiveness was to be found in the ceremony rather than in His sacrifice. Nor did He intend for us to regard His supper as nothing more than a “memorial meal,” or to contradict His words “This is My body” and “This is My blood.” On the contrary, He instituted His Supper as a way telling each and every person who comes that His body was given, and His blood shed, for them, for the remission of sins.
 

STUDY QUESTIONS


1- Who instituted the Lord's Supper?
2- What does Christ want us to remember when we partake of His Supper?
3- What promise does the Lord’s Supper give us?
4- Why is it important not to contradict what Christ said?
5- What tells us that Christ’s words (in the Lord’s Supper) have a deeper meaning?
6- In what sense do we actually receive Christ's body and blood?
7- Why is John 6:35-63 not a reference to the Lord's Supper?
8- How does Christ’s discourse at Capernaum cast light on what He later said about His Supper?
9- Who are unworthy to partake of the Lord’s Supper?
10- What does Christ tell each person who comes to His Supper?